Gerard M. Thiers, ASAH Executive Director

Gerard M. Thiers, ASAH Executive Director.

Click here to download a printable pdf of this letter.

From the Executive Director

Children Caught in the Cross Fire

Educational professionals in New Jersey are on the front line of a new war on special education. Budget conscious leaders are insisting that students with disabilities be brought back to local programs – or refusing to send them to specialized programs at all. Conscientious educators and professionals are often trapped between doing what they know is right for a child, and doing what they are told is right for the bottom line.

“Conscientious educators and professionals are often trapped between doing what they know is right for a child, and doing what they are told is right for the bottom line.”

At ASAH, we take calls from parents and teachers – many of them public school educators – who are concerned about children with disabilities who need more services than what is being offered. We hear stories of students who are not referred to private schools, even when team members agree that referral is warranted. And increasingly, students who are appropriately placed at private schools are being pulled back to local programs, many of which are unprepared and untested.

Children are getting hurt. In the last few years, those who are eventually referred to private programs are older; have more complex and significant disabilities; and, now more than ever, have learning and developmental disabilities that are accompanied by depression, anxiety, school phobia, acting out behaviors and other problems that stem from a lack of appropriate support, services and accommodations.

As educators you have a unique passion, and deep dedication to helping children. It is why you chose this work. I know from conversations with leaders in public schools that you are just as worried about children as we are at ASAH.

At public meetings, in the press, and in Trenton, we need to be sure that the starting point for any discussion about education begins with children and ends with children. The first question has to be “is this what the child needs?” and not “is this what the budget needs.”

At ASAH, we are well aware of the fiscal challenges facing local school districts and the intensive focus on the cost of education. Like you, we are working with policy makers to reduce unnecessary rules and regulations and streamline service delivery in ways that would allow us to cut costs, reduce tuitions and still maintain the high level of service you have come to expect for the children you entrust to us.

Gerry Thiers
ASAH Executive Director